Made it through about 8 pages of a script I was sent a couple of days ago. I had to stop reading. It wasn’t the story, I don’t think. I have no idea because I couldn’t wade through the misspellings and atrocious grammar to get to it.
Maybe some of them were typos. There’s not a writer alive that can find every single typo in a script. But most of them were sheer laziness and probably based on the attitude of “If they buy it, they’ll fix it. It’s the story that counts.” I’ve actually heard more than one writer say this or something similar to me in the past.
They are wrong. Spelling and grammar matter in a script. It reflects on how serious you are taken as a writer. Making the read as smooth and mistake free as you can is essential to getting your story told. Every misspelling or massive grammatical error takes the reader out of your story and focuses them on how poor the writer is for leaving them there.
Your writing reflects you. And getting anyone, besides your family and close friends, to read your script is an accomplishment. What you want is for them to want to read more, to love what you do and your style, to get them on board with you as a writer. Bad grammar and spelling does the opposite.
Yes, scriptwriting is different. We can all acknowledge that. You can write in fragmented sentences. You can break any and all grammar rules in dialogue if you have to. You can even break some spelling rules in dialogue to get a character’s syntax across. That works. But systemic spelling problems on every page will get your script tossed, in my opinion. Ur is not a substitute for Your. Twitter speak in your action lines is not the best way to get your story across.
Every program has spellcheck, so I’m kind of amazed that the spelling errors are still so prevalent. But they are and mostly all in bad scripts.
The excellent scripts I’ve read in the past and three for sure in the past couple of months were, not surprisingly, about 99% mistake free. (Thumbs up to Mike Maples, Emily Blake, & Eliza Lee)
I’m not reading the rest of that script I got 8 pages into. I’m calling the writer and telling her why, too. If she fixes it, I will happily give it another try.
Ok. Spelling and grammar rant over. Now... let’s talk about budget.
This is one subject that really gets some people in a lather. Should you pay attention to the budget of the script you’re writing? Or... should you just write the story you want to write and to hell with how much it will cost to make?
There are compelling arguments on both sides, but I come down on the side of paying attention to it, with a BIG unless...
If you are writing your big budget script as a writing sample, using it to try to get a big budget writing job somewhere down the line, I get it. That makes sense. I have a couple of those.
To expect to sell big budget scripts is a whole different matter. The truth is that there are very few producers or production companies that can make big budget scripts anymore that are pure specs. Maybe 5 or 6, tops. Maybe. And even those will make a script based on a sequel or a well known novel or a comic book or a cancelled TV show or a video game or an iconic cartoon or an amusement park ride or a board game before they’ll make a big budget spec. Hell… they’ll remake a previously failed film before they’ll make a big budget spec.
Now, before you fill my inbox with all the exceptions, I am aware of them and also know I can count those on my fingers in the last 5 years. You don’t even have to be paying much attention at all to see this trend. And add in unproduced writer to your resume and the odds go down a lot further.
But, as a writer trying to break in, if you write your scripts, or most of your scripts, with a budget of a million dollars or so, some maybe even less, there are tons of producers and production companies that want to read what you have and they can actually buy them and make them.
I am convinced that as a new writer trying to get noticed and optioned, right now, at this time in the industry, writing a great low budget film is the way. That may change, although I doubt it, with all the studios making safe tentpole Spiderman 14’s rather than something they have to take a chance on.
A great big budget script can help you if it’s for a writing sample, so you have to weigh it. But getting a big budget script read is also harder to do, in my opinion.
Write what moves you, but think about writing something lower budget that moves you, too. There are a lot more people out there who can read and option those.